One of the most anticipated games of the year is finally here with The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom by Nintendo. Launching exclusively on the Nintendo Switch on May 12, 2023, this sequel to Breath of the Wild is a massive game that will give hundreds of hours of enjoyment and plenty of reasons to go back to it. I am still scratching the surface of Hyrule and its three massive areas so these are my first initial impressions of the new additions in the sequel and will follow up with the final review once I can get many more hours into the game. With loot aplenty, side quests and puzzles galore, the biggest drawcard I have found is the focus on player creativity, exploring the open world landscapes and playing the way you want to play.
Having put several hours into Breath of the Wild last week in preparation for Tears of the Kingdom, it was exciting loading the game up for the first time. Link and Zelda are exploring a dark misty cavern as they slowly make their way through. As you take control of Link, I noticed he has two full rows of hearts and was wielding the master sword which cast a blueish glow to help illuminate the dark cavern. As the game’s incredible music mood starts to shift, we see a light ahead and instantly recognise it’s the resting place of an evil foe.
What occurs next happens in a flash and without going into spoilers, Link and Zelda are separated as the ground shakes and falls away, leaving Zelda tumbling into the darkness. Link jumps after her, showing one of the pivotal scenes from the game’s trailers, but she falls beyond his reach. A hand reaches down to grab Link as Zelda keeps falling, while the lands of Hyrule suffer a cataclysmic event, creating huge rocky outcrops in the sky and large caverns and caves underground. This effectively creates three massive areas to explore.
Link awakens on the Great Sky Island with very little clothing and a simple task, to make our way to the Temple of Time to save Zelda. From here, gameplay takes on much the same form as Breath of the Wild. We move around with the joycons picking up anything that glows and descriptions of these are stored on a Purah Pad that Zelda dropped (this looks just like a Nintendo Switch). We collect and equip weapons, a shield and a bow, and we can jump/dive down into water below us, with swimming reducing our stamina.
Once we get to the temple, the door is magically locked, and we need to grow in power by learning new abilities before we can attempt to open the lock and get to Zelda. Pressing the right stick allows you to peer far into the distance where we spot a nearby shrine. Along the way we meet constructs who slowly teach us about the various gameplay mechanics we come across, like fighting monsters with melee attacks, crouching with left stick and hunting animals for meat with bow and arrow, then cooking that for food. So far, so Breath of the Wild.
Food items we find will replenish Link’s health but cooking them will produce food that restores greater health. As we explore further, we come across a cooking pot where we can add stacks of up to five items together and turn them into a meal. As we experiment with cooking things like mushrooms and apples together, we start learning recipes which is a new interface added with Tears of the Kingdom, and it’s not just health that we can replenish. We can make meals that replenish stamina as well as provide buffs for Link.
When we finally get to the first shrine, we learn a new ability called ultrahand and boy does this start to open things up. We can grab pretty much any loose item like a tree trunk, a huge slab of concrete, or massive floating blocks and move them around to create bridges and blocks to climb up or down. We can also join objects together, like sticking two or more logs end-to-end to cross a wider gap, or putting three logs together with a sail to create a raft that we can use to cross water too wide to swim. Completing little puzzle sequences gets us out of the shrine and we permanently learn that ability.
One huge issue controller issue propped up for me here and it really bugged me for a while. As I activated ultrahand and tried aiming at an object, the cursor would flop around all over the place. It was as if the controller wasn’t calibrated, and the same happened when I was aiming shots with a bow. It was super frustrating, but I learned to get around it. I was complaining about this to a mate, and he simply asked, “have you turned off motion controls?” That was a head smack moment and a trap for new players who haven’t used a switch for a while. It’s an easy thing to turn off within the options menu thankfully.
The next shrine teaches us how to use the fuse ability which allows us to stick items together to create weapons with various effects. In the first instance, we can attach a boulder to a stick to create a heavy-hitting rock weapon, able to crash through crumbly rock structures. I stuck a boulder to my shield by accident, and then proceeded to rock my two big balls around for a while until they broke. Yes, weapon degradation is back, and boy does it wear thin quickly like in Breath of the Wild. However, with the fuse ability we can take an almost busted weapon and add something else to it to prolong its life a little more. There is a crazy number of things that can be added to weapons, including mining carts! It’s weird, but it works.
The third ability, ascend, allows you to pass through ceilings of buildings and caves to find the fastest exit. Prior to getting this, I saw a pile of rocks I could smash, and right as my weapon was swinging down to hit it, I thought, what if this is a huge hole that I can’t get out of… Sure enough it was a cavern, but thankfully I had enough stamina to climb up the walls. Some caves are so dark you literally cannot see a thing. In our travels to this point, you will have collected brightbloom seeds. You can pick them growing off plants, but you can also hit the plant with a weapon to activate them and make them glow. Any seeds you have looted can be shot with your bow to add lights along dark caverns to light your way. I suggest grabbing as many as you can because you will need heaps later in the game.
To get to the third shrine, you need to traverse your way high into the sky islands and utilise Zonai devices. These are things like fans that use energy when activated but will propel your raft where there is no wind. Being up so high and with Link wearing thin clothing, he will lose health when exposed to the colder temperatures. To counter this, you need to cook food such as spicy peppers found around the area. Combining them in a pot allows you to cook up some spicy sauteed peppers and consuming these gives Link a couple of minutes of cold protection, allowing you to get to the shrine. Adding more peppers to the recipe extends the length of time the buff stays on you. Later you can get clothing with bonuses for cold protection and similar effects.
Once we have these three abilities, we can finally enter the Temple of Time and learn the last unique ability to Tears of the Kingdom which is recall. This allows you to reverse an object’s course of movement, creating new pathways or to deflect and hurl back a projectile that was thrown at you by an enemy. This also opens fast travel which we can use to travel between the shrines, then later Skyview Towers and Lightroots. Armed with these fantastic abilities, we then take an epic dive off the Great Sky Island in Fortnite fashion and sail our way down to the familiar landscapes of Hyrule, and thus the main quest continues.
As a husband and Dad of two girls, working full time and fitting in gaming in every other waking hour, this is where my journey in The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom has taken me thus far. I am having an absolute blast, sometimes literally as I play around with the hundreds of ways you can make different shapes and sizes of platforms and crafts to access new areas and solve puzzles. I have already seen some amazing looking vehicles that players have made online, with some resembling what look like pod-racers from Star Wars and wide flying machines. This experience is everything I wanted from a sequel to such a great game, and I am only just getting started. I enjoy taking my time to explore every corner and delight in learning about every new thing we come across.
The new unique abilities for Link give so much more movement and traversal freedom to explore wherever we want to go. It feels a bit like a minecraft sandbox at times as you build contraptions to help you get to new areas or to solve puzzles. Being able to fuse a fan to an object and make it float, glide and fly around means you can explore every square inch, nook and cranny of Hyrule at your own pace and in any order of your choosing. I am excited to continue my adventures now that I am on the ground in Hyrule and am looking forward to carrying on the main quest. I will bring you my final thoughts as I get through the main story.
This review in-progress utilised a key provided by Nintendo ANZ and The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is out now on Nintendo Switch.